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The laptop from heck

“(Edmund) Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all. It is not a figure of speech, or a witty saying; it is a literal fact,–very momentous to us in these times.”

–Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)

Well Elon Musk has goneand done it again, this time in the form of a massive information dump of Twitter files and internal communications that show the social media giant deliberately kept information from the public for the purpose of determining the outcome of the 2020 election.

Specifically at the request of the Democratic National Committee they banned any mention of the Hunter Biden laptop, going to far as to ban accounts of people who insisted on bringing it up, including White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany.

Some of us suspect this was Musk’s real reason for buying Twitter to begin with. And as an afterthought he’ll turn it into a true free speech platform and profit center for his growing empire.

CBS has grudgingly conceded the laptop is genuine and not Russian disinformation as a couple dozen of the Wise and Wonderful in the intelligence community swore up and down it was.

Conservative outlet Townhall reported a poll conducted by the New York Post revealed four out of five Americans would not have voted for Biden had they known.

Permit me to be skeptical. The sample size of that poll was 479 people who said they’d been “closely following” the story.

And I’m going to go out on a limb and say the, “I’m shocked! Shocked I tell you!” response in some quarters carries all the conviction of Claude Rains’ character in Casablanca when he uttered those lines.

To begin with the “Russian disinformation” story never had legs. As anybody with a laptop who thought about it could tell you. Imagine trying to format a laptop with a phony “legend” in spy talk.

What details would they have to know to make it convincing?

How much research would it take to get multi-thousands of pieces of background information?

How much time would it take to complete?

And in a foreign language where awkwardly phrased sentences could blow it.

For another, the Time magazine article of Feb. 4, 2021, by Molly Ball titled, “The Secret History of the Shadow Campaign That Saved the 2020 Election” gave the game away. And it’s still up for all who care to see.

It’s not exactly a surprise that the major media regard themselves as a fourth branch or “estate” of government coequal with the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

What is surprising is how little influence they actually have. Nobody I know who read the Ball article had their opinion changed one way or the other. I invite you to try it yourself.

Back now?

Did it change your opinion?

Back when I was studying mass communication in grad school we learned theories are divided into strong effects and weak effects, and there is very little evidence for strong effects.

This seems counterintuitive but as far as we can see media can’t tell you what to think but at most only what to think about.

People form their opinions in complex ways not very well understood and based only a little on reason and evidence. Once formed they are very difficult to change and the effect of your “tribe” is very strong.

Now Musk seeks to change the media landscape and we shall see if the effects are strong or weak.

— Steve Browne is a former reporter and contributor to the Marshall Independent

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